It may be weeks, months, years from the time that you decide you want to become self-employed to the time that you actually begin to make the transition to this new and often completely different way of working. And there’s a good reason for that…
Here are 5 things to consider when making the transition from full-time employment to working for yourself.
1) Plan Ahead
Whether you’re starting your new work life as a sole trader or a limited company, you need to plan and prepare for the road ahead. Take the time whilst you’re earning a steady wage to get the ball rolling with important admin like setting yourself up as self-employed or registering your private limited company; begin to build a client list and possible job leads to prove to yourself that once you make the full transition you won’t be twiddling your thumbs waiting for work to come in; spend a bit of time on polishing your main marketing materials – make sure your website and social media profiles are as up to date and clear as they can be. All these tasks might seem like too much to deal with alongside your full-time job but trust us, by the time you’re working for yourself full-time, it’s likely that you just won’t have the time to think about these things at all.
2) Save money
A regular income can sometimes make saving a difficult thing to get used to but as you start to become more determined to go it on your own, you should be thinking about putting aside some savings every month to help you when you start out as a freelancer full-time. As soon as you know that you are going to switch to full-time freelancing or running your own business, we recommend putting aside at least 10% of your monthly income – more if you can. Learning to live thriftily will also serve you well in the lean times that most businesses experience at their beginning and in quiet times.
3) Timing is essential
This is where planning ahead and preparing yourself for the transition to self-employed work really makes a difference. If you’ve been thinking that it’s time to make a change for a while, set a date that leaves you enough time to get yourself prepped – and stick to it. Ideally, you want to leave your full-time employment on your terms and not theirs. You could consider looking to reduce your hours at your current job to keep your income more steady, gradually increasing your freelance work until you can (with reasonable confidence) leave your employment for good. However, it’s not always possible to predict what will happen in the future – many new businesses start out as a response to redundancy which can come out of the blue – so it’s also a good idea to have a backup plan and some start-up finances in case you find yourself forced into self-employment ahead of your schedule.
4) Keep Momentum
This applies to both your current job and work that’s independent of your day-to-day employment. Of course, you don’t want to burn out just as you’re about to make the switch to full-time self-employment but that switch may come sooner than you’d like if you’re seen to be slacking in your day job and focusing too much on other endeavours. At the same time, as your leaving date approaches, keep momentum going outside of your main employment by making yourself available and willing to take on new business. You could even start building a waiting list so you can launch straight into paid work as soon as you’ve bid your final farewell to your employer.
5) Stay in the Loop
One of the best things about transitioning from a ‘normal’ work environment to self-employed is that over the time you’ve spent working there you will have met and worked alongside lots of different people. All these people are contacts that could very well prove useful to you in the future. Now, we’re not suggesting that you should poach business from your ex-employer. In fact, we’d strongly urge you not to do this – but over time, it’s an accepted fact that people will move on, change careers, maybe even start up their own companies. And so, it’s a good idea to stay in touch. If they don’t already know, it’s courteous to let clients and colleagues know you’re moving on – as long as you don’t come across as you’re looking to sell your new business services to them. Even if your contacts are from a completely different industry and one that’s seemingly unrelated to yours – you never know when they could get in touch, either with a one-off project that fits your particular skill-sets or because they’ve personally recommended you to someone else.
All these suggestions should help put you in a good position for when it comes to taking that final step towards self-employment. But try not to worry too much if things don’t go exactly to plan – a large part of succeeding in self-employment is down to your willingness to adapt when things don’t turn out just as you’d hoped. It’s this characteristic in business (mixed, of course, with a hearty dose of hard work and perseverance) that should see you through the challenges of transitioning from working for others to working for yourself.